You need 40 credits (10 years of work) paying into the Social Security system to become eligible for retirement benefits. The amount of Social Security benefits you'll eventually receive will be based on:
your highest 35 years of earnings (inflation-adjusted), and
when you decide to claim benefits (early, Full Retirement Age, or delay up to age 70 under current law)
From your question, I'm not sure that you're aware...if you're a US citizen (or considered a US resident abroad), you will still have to file an annual US income tax return. You may be able to claim a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion to mitigate double taxation on your income. And if you're a US citizen, the rules for paying Self-Employment Tax (Social Security & Medicare) on your net free-lancing income (if over $400) are generally the same as if you lived in the US. In that case, you'd continue paying into the US Social Security system each year, which in turn should enhance the benefits that you'll eventually collect. I hope that helps. All the best in your free-lancing career!
Hi! If I understand your question and the data you’ve provided, you have 22 years of regular work in the US where you received a W-2 each year and worked for companies that paid you wages and paid into the Social Security system. If that is correct, you are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
Benefits are based on how much you earned during your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years you didn’t work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.
Hopefully this will help ease your worry a bit. You can keep working overseas. When you are ready to come back to the US, you could work a few more years to try and reach the 35 years of covered work that will help maximize your benefits. If you delay taking benefits until you are age 70, you will also have a higher monthly benefit for the rest of your years. Best of luck to you and thanks for writing!
Kathryn Hauer, EA, CFP®
Admitted to practice before the IRS
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